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It's Not Easy to Ask Why - Why is That?

WRITTEN by: Bill Sterzenbach |
categories: Research and Strategy

Nov 2009


One of the principles I try to encourage my folks here at Upward Brand Interactions to adopt is the concept of 'the persistent why'. It's easy to ask why once. For example, I was working with an SEO client and he informed me that he needed to be ranking for 3 specific keywords. I asked why. He said - they are the most important to my industry. It would have been very easy to stop there and say 'OK, makes sense' but it was more important to discover how he arrived at his conclusion. This is the second why.

Bill: WHY are these keywords important to your industry?
Client: Because this is what my customers search on when looking for my service.
Bill: How do you know that?
Client: Experience
Bill: Excellent - this may save us some learning - what data did you use to arrive at this? We can simply leverage this data instead of going through the exercise all over again.
Client: My gut, and in talking to customers.
Bill: Oh.

This began a long conversation about the importance of real data. I told the client that our research may in fact bear out his assumptions, but without data, we'd be opening ourselves up to much potential wheel-spinning. He did not like this, but in the end it turned out to be VERY beneficial for his success.

The point is, asking the second, third, and beyond whys are what makes us valuable to our clients. Many of them are not accustomed to being asked why, and some even bristle, but ultimately, this is why they hire us.

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